Newly-crowned League of Legends world champs Damwon Gaming and Faker’s T1 headline the 10 organizations accepted into South Korea’s franchised LCK competition starting in 2021, Riot Games confirmed on Sunday evening.
GenG, who took on the two-time Worlds champions Samsung Galaxy in late 2017, and former LCK championship organizations like KT Rolster and DRX — known as ‘Kingzone DragonX’ until early 2020 — also made the 10 team franchise cutoff.
LCK stalwarts like Afreeca Freecs and Sandbox Gaming were both also included, as were Hanwha Life Esports. The league’s newest faces, Team Dynamics, also made the cut.
In fact, only one new team will be joining the LCK ranks heading into 2021.
HyFresh Blade, backed by United States technology company Brion, are set to replace new promoted challenger team SeolHaeOne Prince in the 10-team stable. SP finished with a poor 1–17 record in Summer, winning just six of 39 total games.
The nine returning LCK teams will pay 10 billion won ($8.8 million) to join the franchised league. hyFresh Blade are expected to pay 12 billion won over five years for their LCK spot.
Confirmed LCK teams for 2021 franchise league
- Damwon Gaming
- Afreeca Freecs
- KT Rolster
- Sandbox Gaming
- Team Dynamics
- Hanwha Life Esports
- HyFresh Blade
Riot Korea’s move to franchising in 2021 marks the last of League of Legends’ international ‘big four’ switching to a partnership system. The LPL was the first league to enter a franchise model, and the LCK (2018) and LEC (2019) swapped soon after.
The new LCK franchise switch will also see a minimum salary implemented for all teams. As Dexerto understands, all South Korean organizations will be required to pay all LoL players at least 60 million Korean won ($53,000) per calendar year.
The LCK has long been regarded as the premier League of Legends competition. Between 2013 and 2017 the region won five consecutive World titles, including three for SKT T1.
China snapped that winning streak on the international stage in 2018, with Invictus Gaming and FunPlus Phoenix each lifting the Summoner’s Cup once.
The World Championship in Shanghai this year saw Korea return to their historical throne, however. Damwon Gaming edged LPL contenders Suning 3-1 in the grand final at Pudong Stadium to clinch the LCK’s sixth title in just eight years.
Riot Games also suggested they would actively consider an increase to the league’s team count if the market grows. The first expansion would be to 12 teams.
The LCK bidding run saw plenty of organizations throw their hat into the ring, including shock bids from North American outfits like FaZe Clan and NRG Esports. These early bids were all knocked back, however, early in the selection process.
The newly-franchised LCK competition is expected to begin in early February. The current world champions Damwon Gaming also enter the South Korean league as defending champions. They won their first domestic title in September.